There is nothing quite as wonderful as cutting into a bountiful passionfruit and waiting for the sweet aroma of the pulp to permeate the air around you. Part of the joy of eating a passionfruit is holding it in the palm of your hand, taking a small spoon and gently working the pulp free from the shell.
Despite the passionfruit being native to Brazil it is now grown all over, with the Australian passionfruit industry being the largest producers of purple passionfruit in the world. Available all year round, the passionfruit takes its name from the fruit’s gorgeous flower which is said to symbolise the passion of christ.
When buying passionfruit look for fruit that feels heavy its their size. Passionfruit have a taut shiny skin when they are freshly picked and will shrivel and wrinkle as they continue to ripen (avoid buying excessively wrinkled fruit). When the fruit is fresh, the pulp is usually refreshingly tart with the flavour becoming sweeter and more complex as the fruit ripens.
I recently became the possessor of 7 of the largest passionfruit my eyes have ever seen. As a lover of tart passionfruit and realising how fresh these beauties were, I quickly took to eating one straight out of the shell (purely for testing and research purposes of course). With an abundance of pulp just screaming to be turned into something spectacular, I took it upon myself to avail the remaining 6 passionfruit of their pulp immediately. I delicately cut the top off each passionfruit being sure to preserve the shell, because whatever I created just had to be served inside.
Before I knew it a cunning plan started to formulate.
Clearly the passionfruit shell can handle liquid, so I decided to make a passionfruit panna cotta and set it in the shell. Topped with fresh passionfruit pulp, I knew I could serve it to friends who would not realise that it was a panna cotta until they started eating – the ultimate surprise dessert.
Panna Cotta translates from Italian quite literally to “cream cooked”. A dish from Northern Italy, it is now eaten all over Italy. In its simplest form it is cream, milk and sugar boiled together and set with gelatine, and it is a dessert that is much easier to make than anyone realises. In fact I am gladly reminded of how easy panna cotta is to make every single time I cook it.
To flavour my panna cotta I added fresh passionfruit puree (sans pips) and mint. The resulting panna cotta was a heady mix of fragrant tart passionfruit and fresh mint which perfectly counteracted the creaminess of the dessert.
Passionfruit and Mint Panna Cotta
100ml passionfruit pulp (to make 70g passionfruit puree)
300ml pouring cream
250ml full cream milk
100g caster sugar
6 large fresh mint leaves (or 8 smaller)
2 titanium strength gelatine leaves
6 empty clean passionfruit shells (or ramekins)
Extra passionfruit pulp to serve
Due to the enzymes in passionfruit, the panna cotta will not set properly unless you cook the pulp and turn it into a puree. To do this place passionfruit pulp into a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until the pulp has come to the boil (this will also help remove the seeds from the pulp). Once boiled, remove from heat and strain over a bowl removing the seeds. Use a spoon to push all the puree through the sieve then set aside puree.
Bring cream, milk, sugar and mint to the boil in a saucepan over a medium high heat. Once the mixture has boiled set aside.
Meanwhile in a shallow bowl, cover the gelatine leaves with water to soften for 5 minutes and once softened, remove the leaves making sure you squeeze out the excess water, then add it to the cream mixture with 70g of passionfruit pulp and stir well until all the gelatine has dissolved.
Once dissolved, pour the panna cotta mixture through a sieve (to make sure no gelatine or mint leaves remain) and into a pouring jug and carefully and evenly transfer the mixture to the six passionfruit shells (or ramekins).
Cover the shells and place in the fridge for at least 6 hours (and up to 3 days). Once set and when ready to serve, pour fresh passionfruit pulp on top of the panna cotta and enjoy.